Struggling - Transference Is So Deeply Painful

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Title says it all. I have been reading about transference, I know it is a very normal part of therapy. That T's don't wonder 'if' the client will have those feelings, but more of a matter of 'when' and if the client will ever be ready to talk about it / explore it.

I KNOW the feelings I am having towards her are misplaced - they belong to my abusive (dead) mother. But logic doesn't take away the intensely painful feelings. I've been reading online an excellent blog that has the BEST descriptions and understandings of 'transference' and how, what and why it is that way ('tales of a boundary ninja'). I find it both painfully awful, but reassuring also.

I am yet to talk to my T about it. I am terrified she will reject me; that she will avoid talking about it, if / when I am brave enough to tell her about it. My last T, I started experiencing HATE for her (knowing it was really about my mother). I had emailed my old T at the time, how much I feared what would come next (i.e., the anger and hatred will turn to love and 'longing'). My old T either never picked up on it, or chose to ignore it because it was too uncomfortable for her to acknowledge. THAT was incredibly painful.

If my current T was to do the same, I think I don't' know if I could survive it, I would be that devastated. So it incredibly scary (!!!!!) even thinning about telling her, let alone actually having the conversation :(.

Current feelings I am having towards my T that I know are linked to my past:

1) That the 'therapeutic relationship' is so similar to the relationship I had with my mother - there is a potentially kind, caring, nurturing person at the other end, but they will never reciprocate my feelings. I might ache and yearn for my T to 'care' and 'love' me, or even have a tenth of the depth of the feelings I have for her, back towards me. But it won't happen. Ouch.

If my mother had been 100% nasty, abusive and NEVER showed me any love or affection, I sometimes think it would have been easier to deal with at the time. But because she alternated between being unpredictably abusive, rejecting, cold and unloving, with loving, nurturing, kind; it left me with an ongoing HOPE she would stay loving and kind. She had the ability after all, to love and protect me - but just chose not too. WIth my T - she too, is a kind, caring person - but due to the boundaries of therapy, she won't ever cross that line. She won't be inviting me back to her house to curl up on her couch with a warm blanket and inviting me to 'feel safe' outside the therapy rooms. Damn it!!!

2) The 'care' I receive from my T (in that she turns up week after week, listening, and 'caring') is like receiving the bare crumbs of what I NEED. Growing up, I longed for, ached, and NEEDED love from my mother, but all I got was crumbs. My mother loved me and showed it only if she wanted to. With my T, I see her once a week, for one hour. That it is. As much as I'd want to live under her desk and never leave, to have her 'be there' for me all the time, she can't and won't be.

All the logic in the world as to why and how and who this is happening due to, isn't making it any less painful. When I think my T CAN be caring and kind, and nurturing, I feel so angry that she won't fulfill the role I ache for so damn bad. It is so frustrating and so painful :(.

I don't want to hate my T. I don't want to 'love' her. I don't want to ache for her to care about me in the way I never got as a child. I don't want to be stuck in this incredibly painful and intense feeling of 'wanting so badly what I never got growing up, but missed out on and can NEVER EVER get' :(.

And this is all before I have even raised the issue with her. f*ck this.

The part of me that is brave and wants to work through it wants to email her some bits of this, so she knows what is happening. A small part of me does trust her - so much - and there isn't anyone else I'd trust with feeling this way. In essence, deep down, I do think she can and will be able to help me with this; she won't reject me, but continue being the kind, caring, and boundary-conscious T she is.

When I think of emailing her, and her knowing what I'm beginning to struggle with, I feel so light-headed and dissociated. If I don't begin talk through some of this at our session Friday, I will be so angry at myself for a wasted opportunity. How do I know how much to push myself? Do I just 'send the email' and hope it won't be too overwhelming afterwards / when I see her Friday? Or do I wait and try to bring it up with her on Friday? In the past, I do find emailing easier - sometimes in session I freeze and can't talk. Last week I had emailed her and it was STILL almost impossible to talk about some things. I feel in order for her to best help me, I need to let her know what is happening' I need to let her do her job.

If I email her, I know come Friday she will say "Do you want to talk some of the content in your email?"

Yeah - I 'want' to talk about it as much as I'd 'want' to escape a burning building by running through the flames, catching fire, and being without oxygen for a period of time, in order to have the flames put out and live to tell about it!!!!!



The times I brought it up in therapy, it evolved into a powerful part of the therapy. It was a great tool for spotting where essential work was needed and developing tools for coping with it in the rest of my life. I strongly encourage you to bring up it, honestly and to the point. I was encouraged to think of it as a natural part of effective therapy. It doesn't need to evolve into anything unethical.

I see nothing perverse here, November. Just part of healing.


Thank you @arfie. I don't see anything 'perverse' either - and I do agree - I think it is an awesome opportunity for exploration and growth. It's something I have never ever EVER acknowledged in therapy (21 years of it so far, with different Ts) - because of the raw pain of it. And deep shame, as well as fear - a lot of that.

I felt a lot better after posting - I went on to have a GREAT day - I actually felt HAPPY - and 'normal' (as in no low mood, and no PTSD symptoms!). :).

I will see how I feel in the morning, I do think I ought to email her - I think I will be able to do so (and be honest in it as well as very clear as to what is happening with me at the moment) if I am in the mind frame of 'strength' rather than extreme vulnerability.

Most of the day, when I thought about my T, I was left feeling safe - protected;I imagined telling her my struggles, and I imagined she didn't shy away from it, but was prepared to talk thought it, and wanted very much to help me, not hurt me. I imagined she will do her utmost to continue to protect me, and to keep the boundary there. Which in turn, might feel really hard and frustrating on one hand, but on the other, it would only reaffirm how grab she is at her job how ethical, professional, and CAREFUL she is, to NOT cause me harm (not on purpose anyway). How she would use the professional boundary to keep me safe, rather than hurt me.

And the irony of it - if she were unethical and tried to 'become my friend' or 'be there' for me outside the therapy rooms, that is what would cause me the most harm - far more emotional harm than if she keeps the therapeutic boundary as it is, strong and secure. Funny how that works - her NOT giving me what I feel I really really REALLY 'need' is exactly what I DO need.

It's hard to explain what I mean, but the overall gist is, I felt safe most of today, thinking about talking about it with her Friday :).


Oh sweet, I sympathize with you. Yes it is so hard to control. I hope you find courage to get passed this, it took me a very long time. (((Hugs))) if you accept them.
I suggest you print your post out and read some to her or have her read it. You have excellent insight and you can face this!


Thanks @billie - I know the key to a lot of my childhood trauma lies within this, so it is VERY important I deal with it and work through it. Hugs greatly accepted, I sure need them right now, thank you. It has taken me over 20 years to be in any way 'ready' to deal with this. I am going to email her this morning, she usually replies if I ask her too, although she has always said it can only be a short email response, as it's always best to deal with things not over email. I usually just ask for reassurance / acknowledgment she has received my email, and that is enough for me.

I am feeling physically sick to my stomach thinking about sharing it with her :(

@HollyBeans27 - I can't give her all this info in one go, I would be left feeling far too exposed and it would send me very backwards / flood me. (I'm glad I know that in advance). I will email her the basics, and acknowledge I do know its 'normal' and a part of good therapy, as well as confide in her my huge fear with this.

Complicating this is I really need support in real time, and my case worker (I normally see once a fortnight, but can phone and see more often if needed) has disappeared - she was meant to come see my Monday afternoon, but never turned up. I txt her, with no response on Monday. Yesterday I phoned and left a message for her - and I still haven't heard back. It's NOT like her to not turn up and not contact me - and in my very vulnerable state right now, the panic within me is almost at hysteria level - I really start fearing she has died or something very very awful has happened :(. I will try soon again - but I'm aware that my panic is rising every time I cannot get hold of her - so I'm almost afraid to try again and not get hold of her. I REALLY need her support right now - I'd like to know she is there for me, and I could phone after sending this email to my T.

So I feel a bit stuck right now and trying so hard to not really really panic. I have huge fears of abandonment and at the moment due to this transference stuff, it is all heightened one hundred fold :cry:.

Even if I do get hold of my caseworker, my fear is so intense that anything short of a major accident or illness on her part as a reason for disappearing, I will struggle to cope with what it all means (She forgot about me? Didn't care enough to let me know something came up? If she's sick why doesn't someone covering for her make contact to let us now she is off sick?)

I don't have any other supports in real time - I don't have any friends I can talk to. I have no one, certainly no one who I can talk to about any of this stuff. If I email my T she might reply later today, or tomorrow - but in the meantime, I feel sick with sorry over both my 'missing' caseworker and the transference stuff with my T.

I want to cry I feel so afraid right now :cry:


I wanted to just chime in to say that I am sorry you are having so much anxiety over things right now. I am sending loads of strength your way and hope that you are able to settle in with your thoughts and find some comfort that everything will be ok. You haven't done anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed about and it is quite brave to move forward with this part of your journey. I am not sure that I could if I were in the same boat!!!

Hang in there!!!


Thank you @Rumors. I did email my T yesterday morning. I put at the start of my email " I know you cannot write me back a long reply and that is ok, but could you please just flick me an email saying you read this and it IS ok to talk about on Friday - I'm feeling very vulnerable right now and am worried what you will think".

It's now after 6pm on Thursday. She will have left work and she didn't reply back to me. I am meant to see her in the morning at 10:30am.

I cannot go see her if she doesn't email me back - I just can't. I'm so afraid she will be one of those Ts that don't like dealing with transference. I'm also feeling deeply hurt that if she did get my email and read it, then didn't she KNOW how hard it was for me to write it and say what I did? I'd said in it, it's the biggest thing I have to face and deal with in therapy, harder than anything.

I really thought she 'got it'. Now I don't know. I've cried so much tonight. My heart hurts so badly. It was the biggest risk IU have taken in therapy - I have NEVER been able to face the transference stuff - I'd told my T that more than once before. I made myself so incredibly vulnerable to send her that email - and I only sent the email instead of trying to talk to her face to face about it, because its such an intense subject for me, I did not think I'd be ABLE to physically speak about it. I didn't' want to waste the hour trying to bring it up and not succeed. I thought e-mailing was the bet way to make sure we can talk about it on Friday.

I had just wanted a quick one or two line email back, just for reassurance so I could face her tomorrow - even if she had emailed me back, I would have found it so incredibly hard to turn up and show my face, such is the SHAME I feel.:(.

I thought about turning up and trying to say how I felt but it feels like there is no point - I feel I will just cry and I don't see the point in that - what difference does it make AT ALL, if it hurt me badly? What difference does it make if I see my T and sit there crying? NONE. NO difference at all. It doesn't change anything. It doesn't make mean she will care more - I feel it will only make me look more pathetic. I've done all the vulnerability I can do for the week, and I feel so unsupported and alone.

My caseworker also let me down. She did phone me back - almost an hour after she promised to. She didn't even give me a reason as to why she canceled on me on Monday - she SAYS she txt'd me. I don't believe her. I asked her "but didn't you think it was odd I didn't reply to your 'txt'???" I said "and I left a voice message for you on the Tuesday afternoon asking you to PLEASE phone me back; that I was worried". She said "oh, yes, you did..I'm sorry …." No explanation as to why she didn't return my calls.

I reminded her why it was so important to me that we meet up on that Monday - it was my back up plan for getting back on track for the week, as I am going through some really hard therapy stuff right now, and after seeing my T on the Friday, I am in a spin out most of the weekend. She did acknowledge that she knew that. But again - no explanation as to why she blew me off. She offered to meet up this morning, the one part of the rest of the week I can't as I volunteer at the local SPCA. She then said it will have to be next Monday she see's me. I said "are you sure - Monday's seem to be hard for you to see me" (she has bailed TWICE on me now on a Monday). She claims "oh I have nothing else in my diary form Monday afternoon, I'm all yours I can stay for hours if you want me too! First in, first served".

Yeah right. I don't believe her.

I don't feel I ask for 'too much' right now, given all I;m working through (or trying to). It was important I see her and try to make a plan as to how I will get through the weekend after my session with my T on Friday. Not that I think I'll be going to see her tomorrow anyway :(. There is only so much I can handle, you know?


Ok, even though I'm talking to myself on here now, I did read it. She said it's 'great' I can share these things with her and that it's progress and that I feel more able to share some of the thoughts I find it so hard to discuss.


I think I feel better about it now. I am glad she did email me. I guess I don't have an 'excuse' to not go tomorrow now though:wideeyed:.

Feel so ashamed.

I'll try to keep focused on my light hearted analogy I posted above, in response to her inevitable 'do you want to talk about it?'

Yeah - I 'want' to talk about it as much as I'd 'want' to escape a burning building by running through the flames, catching fire, and being without oxygen for a period of time, in order to have the flames put out and live to tell about it!
I'm reading this thread for the first time now. My stomach knotted in sympathy for you. Gosh, how painful this week has been for you.

My gut reaction to your last post is that you should read your therapist's email

UPDATE: I see that whilst writing my post, you went ahead and read it. Congrats as that required courage :tup:
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